Farzad Mostashari on ONC's budget, government shutdown

By Gienna Shaw

Farzad Mostashari, now former National Coordinator for Health IT, addressed the ONC budget for the first time since leaving the office, and weighed in on how the government shutdown is hurting Health IT programs at the CHIME13 conference in Arizona last week.

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT is responsible for policy coordination, setting standards, engaging with the healthcare field and certifying electronic health records, Mostashari (right) noted. "Maybe you noticed that there [have been] no updates to the certified health IT product list? Our certification program is furloughed right now. And ONC standards work is stopped and ONC policy work is stopped."

The government shutdown and budget crisis is about more than national parks, he said. "There's so much of the work of government that people don't see and you only see when the failures occur. The failure of interoperability. The failure of privacy and security. The failure of rural providers [and the] digital divide that develops and the safety problems."

Over the past few years, government budgets have not been capped but "frozen," he said. ONC, a government agency that's responsible for a $3 trillion healthcare industry and a $30 million health IT industry, is underfunded and spending money in the wrong areas, he said.

"It's like having a household income where you have a budget for diapers right? Well, your kid's in grade school now, but you still have to have a diaper budget and you can't have a school book budget," he said.

"Year after year the department has said we want to reduce funding for other activities and we want to increase ONC's funding. And year after year [the budget's] been at $60 million. ... That's the entire budget to do all of it."

Farzad Mostashari on ONC's budget, government shutdown